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Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018
Connor MacDonald the latest to join tumbling national mix
2018-08-20
by Randy Pascal

You can add Connor MacDonald to the list of GymZone – Sudbury Laurels’ tumblers who have broken through to compete at nationals, the 13 year old long-time gymnast nailing all of the qualifying criteria requirements at the Eastern Canadian Championships earlier this summer.

Better yet, his wasn’t the only noteworthy performance as the local T & T (tumbling and trampoline) crew kept busy in the latter stages of the 2017-2018 season. A very competitive Laurels’ representative in the men’s artistic gymnastics circuit prior to his cross-over to full-time tumbling two years ago, MacDonald has progressed exponentially, building on the base he had developed with strong floor routines in his youth.

“I got my double backs (back hand-springs) recently,” he stated earlier this year. “My first pass is now three whips and three back hand-springs. Before, it was one whip and three backs. You need to work on your connections to your skills to add them up.”

At a glance, these athletes make that seem easy. A typical pass, at this level, involves a steady stream of manoeuvers which all appear to flow flawlessly into the next. It’s not quite that easy, according to MacDonald. “In a back hand-spring, you have to put your hands down, but in a whip, you keep your arms almost at 90 degrees with your chest,” he said.

“The back hand-spring is tougher for me, because sometimes, I bend my arms. I just have to get over that, but I’m getting better at it.” A big part of the motivation that MacDonald has drawn on towards the end of this season was based on a less than stellar performance at his opening provincial qualifier.

“My passes were weaker, my forms weren’t the best, and I have an off-day at competition, which really didn’t help,” he recalled. “With the second qualifier, I was more focused, and I had more time between my passes. I like to have a positive outcome with anything I do.”

That was certainly the case at Easterns in Oshawa, MacDonald sitting fourth after the preliminary round, but with only 0.4 points separating the northern lad from the two adversaries directly above him. Things really came together in the final, as he bumped all the way into a tie with the first round leader, settling for second place based on a tie-breaker formula.

Moreover, the results vaulted MacDonald into the Level 5 (nationals) discussion, as the degree of difficulty involved with the skills in his pass, combined with his execution of same, was enough to do the trick. “This is a big stepping stone for me, as I have a chance to compete against a lot of the other great athletes from all over Canada,” he said.

“I had to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, in training. I honestly didn’t even know I could mobilize to nationals at this competition, and could not believe it was happening.” Looking forward, the grade nine student at Collège Notre-Dame is keeping things fairly loose for the upcoming season.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “My goals are to get experience at this new level and try and get my name out there and be able to compete at a national level. Being able to medal at a competition would be amazing.”

MacDonald was joined in Oshawa by three of his Laurels teammates, with Hector Loiselle (5th place – Level 2 men’s tumbling), Halley Baker (5th place – Level 4 women’s 15+ trampoline - and 3rd in Luck of the Draw Synchro event) and Mathieu Sisk (10th overall – Level 1 men’s 13+ trampoline – and 2nd in Luck of the Draw) all garnering valuable experience at Easterns.

For Sisk, in particular, the meet was just the latest in a string of forward steps, as he takes a leap from years of recreational competition to the one apparatus that seems to form a fit. “I wasn’t really good at anything other than trampoline,” conceded the grade 10 student at St Charles College.

“With trampoline, I think it’s just kind of a natural ability. They keep telling me I have a really good core. Trampoline uses a lot of muscles, but the muscles in your abs and core are the most important. That’s what causes rotation, it’s what helps keep you in the center of the trampoline, it’s where your center mass is.”

And though he is only just cutting his teeth when it comes to the experience of so many others in attendance at tournaments across the province, Sisk knows that participating in provincials is where he needs to be. “I’ve kind of had my sights set on provincials,” he stated. “Part of the problem with interclub (recreational) is that there’s not too many people. I kept thinking that it would be nice to have a bit more of a challenge.”

Rounding out the lineup of Laurels who took part in the T & T provincials were Giulian Rocca, Emma Hudder, Elizabeth Uguccioni, Victoria Baxter, Avani Innis, Anna Duval, Leiah Cecchini-Lachance, Aryanna O’Malley, Autumn Deschenes, Celeste Rodrigue, Madison Kelly and Mia Reich.

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